Having a playground on an apartment complex or other commercial property can make that facility much more appealing to families with children. But property owners often worry about the cost of maintaining the equipment and playground, as well as the potential liability involved if a child should get hurt while playing on a slide, jungle gym or other structure. And that’s understandable.
But fear of injury and concern about the cost of maintaining your apartment’s playground shouldn’t keep you from offering a play space at your commercial property. Knowing how to take good care of the equipment and the surrounding recreational area, plus what your responsibilities and potential liabilities are as a landlord can allow you to offer an attractive and enjoyable outdoor space to people of all ages.
And that’s the purpose of this guide — providing you with an overview of apartment playgrounds, as well as maintenance tips for apartment playgrounds.
Why Maintaining Apartment Playgrounds Is Vital to Success
There are two significant benefits when it comes to maintaining apartment playgrounds, including:
- Value: Installing a playground can make an apartment community more attractive to tenants. Even tenants without children might have interest in living in a complex that has a recreational area for kids. For example, older couples with grandchildren or a single person with nieces or nephews might want to have a place for their younger relatives to play when they come to visit. That can provide you with the opportunity to increase rental rates, due to the value of your complex.
- Promotion: The second benefit is that — once installed — a well-maintained playground remains attractive to tenants or guests of tenants. If the playground equipment is well-cared for, parents and other adults are going to be more likely to let kids use it. On the other hand, playground equipment landlords let go quickly become a neglected eyesore. But, with an attractive playground, you and your tenants can promote your complex through advertisements and word-of-mouth recommendations.
If you live in an area with an excellent school system, including a playground as a part of your complex can entice even more families to choose your facility.
A Realistic Look at Playground Injuries
A significant, and understandable, concern for commercial property owners is the risk of liability.
How frequent are playground injuries, though? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly a quarter of a million children under the age of 14 are treated in emergency rooms each year for injuries sustained on a playground. Almost three-quarters of all playground-related injuries take place in a public space, such as at a local park or schoolyard. Playground injuries are more likely to occur in the spring and early fall and are more common on weekdays than on weekends.
What’s critical to note is that the CDC notes that playgrounds that are well-maintained present fewer risks to children than neglected playground structures, emphasizing that many playground-related injuries often result from neglect, not the quality of the equipment. Thus, if you add a playground to your property and maintain it with the assistance of in-house staff or contracted workers, you can expect less of a liability risk.
That’s why, from a legal and practical point of view, keeping apartment playground complexes nice lowers your liability as the property owner.
What Are a Property Owner’s Responsibilities?
As a property owner or property management company, it’s important to understand what your responsibilities are for playground equipment and how maintaining it can affect your liability. More than one-third of playground injuries occur on unmaintained equipment. Around 20 percent of playground injuries happen because the structures weren’t installed or laid out correctly or because the playground equipment just isn’t appropriate. It might be outdated, for example.
The easiest way to reduce your liability — as a landlord or property owner — for any injuries that occur on playground equipment is to maintain it on a regular basis. That can involve inspecting it each week, such as by looking for rusty areas, sharp spots and damage to the soft surfaces beneath the equipment. It also means checking that it remains structurally sound and that any worn or outdated features, such as animal swings, rope swings or trapeze bars, are replaced with more modern, safer equipment.
Finally, it means making sure that the playground itself is up to code. For example, you must have at least nine feet of space between play structures that are more than 30 inches high. As well, soft, protective surfacing needs to extend at least six feet out from all sides of equipment, such as slides and swings. Keeping your playground equipment in good shape and up-to-date will not only protect you from liability but also help build your property’s reputation as a premier complex for families.
Apartment Playground Maintenance Tips for Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter
The spring, summer and fall are the three times of year when apartment playgrounds are a go-to place for families. The longer days and often warmer weather mean kids have more time to be outdoors. Since school is closed in the summer, many kids spend much of their afternoons out and about, rather than in a classroom. The increased amount of use a playground is likely to see during the warmer months of the year mean that maintaining your property’s play area becomes critical during these three seasons.
Explore our apartment playground maintenance tips for each season:
Apartment Playground Maintenance Tips for Spring
As the weather finally starts to warm and the ground begins to thaw, it’s a good idea to check in on the state of your playground. The chill of winter and subsequent wet weather of spring can often mean some damage to playground equipment. For example, heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures can cause damage to soft rubber swings that were left out over the winter. Wet weather can also cause hardware to loosen.
Before you open an apartment community’s playground for the spring, it’s a good idea to have someone inspect and check the structural integrity of the equipment. Tighten any screws that might have loosened, check for rusty chains or other rusted metals and inspect wood for splits or cracks.
It’s also a good idea to check out the surface around the playground. Snow and freezing temperatures can put pressure on surfaces that are supposed to be soft and cushioning. Check to make sure that the protective coating around the playground covers all the necessary areas. You also want to check to make sure that any coverings are still plentiful. For example, if there are wood chips for the ground surface of the playground, you might need to replace them if they have become sparse in spots.
Apartment Playground Maintenance Tips for Summer
As the weather heats up and school lets out for summer, it’s likely that more children than ever will be visiting the playground at an apartment complex. Summertime maintenance is similar to springtime maintenance in a few ways.
You want to have someone regularly check on the structural integrity of the playground. That person should tighten screws and bolts, keep an eye out for sharp hardware and look for rusty metal or worn-out wood.
Since summer is often the season when flowers are in full bloom, maintaining the playground at a commercial property can also involve keeping it looking good. That can mean tending to any plantings around the play area and swapping out faded springtime annuals, such as pansies, for annual flowers, such marigolds, that can thrive in the heat of summer.
Throughout the summer, it’s also a good idea to maintain the protective surface on the ground of the playground. That can mean replenishing wood chips or shredded tires and making sure they remain the recommended 12 inches deep throughout the season.
Another playground feature that needs close attention in the summer months is the sandbox. You want to keep the sand in the sandbox free of foreign particles, especially shards of broken glass and other litter. One way to do that is to have a cover for the sandbox that goes over it each night after 5 p.m. or another designated time. That way, teenagers and young adults aren’t tempted to hang out in the sandbox in the evening hours, reducing the chance of them leaving debris.
The cover can also help to keep out critters such as cats, raccoons and skunks who might want to use the sandbox as a litter box.
Covering a sandbox might not be enough to keep debris out of it. It’s still possible for twigs and branches to fall into the sand from neighboring trees or for children to bring in small rocks and other stuff. To keep the sandbox as safe as possible, have someone regularly comb through it with a rake, removing any large pieces of debris.
It’s also a good idea to change out the sand in a sandbox at least once during the summer. You might need to switch out your sand more often, depending on how many children use it and how dirty the sand gets.
Apartment Playground Maintenance Tips for Fall
Depending on the location of the playground, it might be necessary to clean up fallen leaves in the autumn. If left on the ground, leaves can be a slip and fall risk. Leaves left to rot on the ground or playground equipment can also harbor certain types of mold, which can trigger in an allergic reaction in some people. Plus, leaves on the slides, jungle gyms and other structures can make it difficult for children to use the playground, which can lead to complaints from parents.
In addition to leaf removal during the fall, it’s essential to keep up with other maintenance tasks. You might need to switch out the plantings around the playground after the heat of summer, for example. In some areas, it’s possible to plant pansies in the fall and have those same flowers bloom through the winter and into the spring.
Apartment Playground Maintenance Tips for Winter
Winter, with its freezes and chills and the threat of snow and other wet weather, presents its own unique set of challenges when it comes to playground maintenance. As adults, it’s easy to assume that the kids will stay indoors and avoid the playground all winter long, leaving you off the hook for maintenance until the return of spring.
The reality is that children are likely to be out on the playground at least a few times during the winter. For their safety and the upkeep of your playground equipment, it’s vital to keep up with maintenance all season long.
In several cases, taking preventative measures before the cold sets in will help keep your equipment in excellent shape all winter. For example, if the playground features wooden structures, treating the wood with a preservative or with a coating that keeps out moisture will help prevent rot over the winter. A wood preservative can also stop the wood from cracking or splintering, preserving the structural integrity of the playground equipment.
You also want to pay attention to the hardware that holds the equipment together. Rain, snow and strong winds can cause screws to come loose over the winter, as well as rust. Give every fixture a proper tightening before the cold arrives.
Apartment Playground Maintenance Tips for Snow Removal
Kids might love a snow day, but all that white stuff can get in the way of them playing on their favorite playground equipment. Snow makes it difficult, if not downright unsafe, to climb up on jungle gyms, slide down slides or push off on swings.
Even if there isn’t snow, icy conditions, such as a patch of ice on a slide or swing, can create a perilous situation for kids who want to play. That’s why our apartment playground maintenance tip for snow removal is to play it safe. If you’re experiencing heavy snow or inclement weather, send out an apartment-wide notice that states the playground’s closed until further notice. That way, your team can focus on clearing areas with heavy foot traffic.
For a dusting or light droppings of snow, quick snow and ice removal from the playground area is a must to keep children safe. An excellent way to prevent use before snow removal is to enclose the playground with a gate and fence.
Protecting Kids and Families Who Use the Playground
Another critical component of playground maintenance is making sure any families who use it understand the rules participation. For example, if one play area is for children under the age of five, problems can occur if 12-year-olds regularly use it, whether tantrums from the younger group or broken equipment from the older children.
Signs explaining the rules to parents, as well as notices stressing the importance of not leaving children unattended, help make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to the expectations for the play area. Those signs can also minimize your liability as a property owner.
A few examples of signs you might post in a playground area include:
- “Kids Under 5” or “Kids Age 5 to 12”
- “Use At Your Own Risk”
- “Children Must be Supervised At All Times”
- “Playground Open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.”
Maintaining the signs and making sure they are clear and easy to read is a must. You might need to replace worn out signs with fresh ones every year or so, depending on the amount of wear and sun they get.
It’s also a good idea to have a contact number or email address posted near the playground area. Tenants and others who use the equipment can call the number or send a message to report any issues at the playground.
If you do provide some means of contact, it’s essential that you monitor the email inbox or voicemail on a daily basis. If someone reports an issue and the property owner doesn’t do anything to fix it, and someone gets hurt, the owner is most likely going to have some responsibility.
Maintain Your Apartment Playgrounds With Complete Landscaping Service
Do you think that adding a playground to your existing apartment community would improve it and make your tenants happy? Or do you already have one and are struggling to make it look nice and to keep it up-to-date and safe for all? Complete Landscaping Service offers several playground-centric services, from annual plantings to snow removal. To learn more about how we can help you install a professional playground or maintain an existing structure, get in touch with us today for a free quote.